Georgetown Time Machine

The DC Department of Transportation just released a new archive of old photos from its collection. It’s located here. GM would like to take advantage of this great archive with a new series: Georgetown Time Machine. In it he’ll take one photo from the archive and highlight what difference time has had on Georgetown.

Today he starts with an aerial shot of the mixing bowl around lower east Georgetown and the Rock Creek Parkway. The photo is most likely from the late 1940s.

Here are some of the interesting items:

The industrial section of Georgetown was still quite industrial at this point. You can see the train tracks, as well as the freight trains themselves, at the eastern end of K St. What’s also quite interesting is that there’s no Whitehurst Freeway. That was opened in 1949, and DDOT says this photo comes from a batch of photos that could come from 1947, so that’s probably the correct date.

Prior to the Whitehurst, as you can see, K St. simply crossed Rock Creek at grade and continued on into the West End.

Further up 29th you can see the West Heating Plant still under construction (which supports the 1947 date, since it was built between 1946 and 1948):

Above that you can see that where the Four Seasons is there was just a parking lot. This somewhat surprised GM, because he was under the impression that there was a streetcar facility at that location, but perhaps it was built later:

You can see the Peck Memorial Presbyterian chapel between M and Pennsylvania. It was demolished just a few years later in 1951 (what a nice large tree–possibly American Elm–there was on the triangle across 28th):

Above that you can see when the lot behind the Corcoran School on 28th was vacant (also some more impressive trees along M St.):

And finally, look how much of the West End/Foggy Bottom was destroyed to make room for some on-ramps for Virginians:

You’ll not be surprised to hear that this neighborhood had a high number of African Americans living in it! Highways and their destructive tendrils had an awfully consistent habit of snaking through Black neighborhoods. That large building in the lower picture is the Briggs-Montgomery School, seen in this photo from the Wymer Collection:

Within a few years, that school, all those homes and churches and shops would be destroyed to shave a few minutes off a commute, minutes that no doubt made their way back on to those commutes once too many homes went up out across the Potomac:




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3 responses to “Georgetown Time Machine

  1. The destruction for those Whitehurst Freeway ramps sickens me.

  2. Pingback: Georgetown Time Machine: Looking West | The Georgetown Metropolitan

  3. The ‘parking lot’ where the Four Seasons now is was not a parking lot, but rather a multi-story Washington Gas Light Co. garage and parts warehouse.

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